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Nevada defeats Colorado State to claim the Mountain West’s NCAA Tournament bid

The Wolf Pack are dancing for the first time in a decade.

NCAA Basketball: Mountain West Conference Championship Nevada vs Colorado State Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Only two years after inheriting a program that just finished a 9-22 season, Eric Musselman has the Nevada Wolf Pack dancing. Faced with a Colorado State team that was hungry to avenge a loss from just a week ago, the Wolf Pack pulled out a 79-71 victory to take home the Mountain West title.

It was a battle throughout as both teams endured the fatigue of playing three games in three days. Shots fell short, defenders were a step slow, and every rebound was a test of willpower. It wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing game of the season, but Nevada got the job done.

The Wolf Pack were led by a stellar performance on the glass. They outrebounded the Rams 46-34, and had multiple players pull down double-digit rebounds. Jordan Caroline pulled down 10 boards of his own, and added 23 points to complete the double-double. Their standout big man Cameron Oliver didn’t have a strong offensive performance, but his 14 rebounds and energy on defense was a key to limiting Colorado State’s impact on the interior.

Despite being two of the best three-point shooting teams in the conference, neither team was able to find a rhythm from distance. Nevada compensated by getting to the free throw line at will. The Wolf Pack went 26-35 at the stripe, and Marcus Marshall knocked down 12-16 en route to a 21-point outing. The Rams, on the other hand, only attempted 11 free throws as a team, three of which came in the final seconds when the game was all but over.

The Rams did trail by 12 at the half, but were able to tie it up at 51 halfway through the second half. However, the tired legs struggled to get over the hump when faced with the uphill battle. Prentiss Nixon was the only Ram that was able to connect consistently from the arc, hitting six of his 10 threes as he scored 23. Mountain West POY scored 30 for the second straight game against Nevada, but did so on 13-29 shooting. Emmanuel Omogbo added 10 points, but the Rams only got eight points outside of that trio, and it proved to be costly.

This NCAA birth shows just how good of a job Musselman has done since taking the helm. He’s created a roster that is full of talent, and takes a hot team into the tournament that no team will want to see. Bracket Matrix currently projects the Wolf Pack as a 12 seed, and they could very likely be a trendy upset pick. They’ll receive their placement tomorrow on Selection Sunday, but regardless of who they’re matched up with, it’s apparent that the Wolf Pack will be ready to run wild.